As I write this, the CEO of Cadillac is crammed into steerage class of American 187, Chicago to Beijing. The CEO of Cadillac will arrive in his Beijing hotel long after midnight, and will take his morning meetings in a suit crumpled from the 13 hr flight in the back of the bus. No fresh clothes, his bags are in Detroit, and if he’s lucky, the luggage will catch up with him some day. Knowing Delta, however, the bags will be last seen in Mogadishu, Somalia. An inauspicious start of a fresh initiative for exporting American luxury abroad.
Johan de Nysschen, freshly minted Cadillac CEO, went to Detroit Airport on Saturday morning, to take the Delta flight to China’s capital. In Beijing, he wanted to meet Cadillac’s China team, to discuss plans for enlarging Cadillac’s share of the world’s largest car market.
The plans collided with a tardy Delta crew. And just in case you are wondering: This is a true story, no satire.
According to de Nysschen, “a 20 min delay turned into a one hour delay turned into a two hour delay in the departure of Delta 189 from Detroit to Beijing. Why? Well, because not all the crew members showed up for work, that’s why.”
They never showed.
Delta was unable to round up a few spare crew members at its Detroit hub. De Nysschen’s flight was cancelled. The people in Beijing were no supposed to wait for Delta to arrive 24 hrs late. The CEO of Cadillac declined the offer of flying the next day . De Nysschen announced he would try to get to China on another carrier. The answer he received: “You are welcome to do that sir. But we can’t release your luggage, you will have to file a claim.” Delta effectively held his luggage hostage in order not to lose the flight coupon – even if this would mean that the customer would be lost for life.
De Nysschen abandoned his bags in Detroit, and went to Beijing via Chicago. First or Business were booked, he found a narrow seat in Economy. He flew with what he could carry in his hands.
Quipped de Nysschen: “I guess there will be hysterical news reports on CNN tomorrow, about some foreigner inflicting unspeakable horror on the innocent residents of Beijing – by walking around in his underwear.”
If a CEO of Cadillac can’t get better treatment, then something is seriously wrong.